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Pick up the pieces

Oct 15, 2017

Some things in life just puzzle me: for example, why does a pen only ever run out whilst you are using it? When someone has an accident such as dropping a precious piece of china on the floor do they always say: ‘I knew that would happen!’ Well if you knew it would happen … never mind.

And another thing, why is my phone called a mobile when it’s never moved of its own accord during the whole of its existence? What’s the appeal of Benedict Cumberbatch would he be so damn popular if he was called Ron Smith?

When I was young, my father often used to say to me if I had a problem: ‘Remember son, a wet bird never flies at night’. I’ve never ever worked out what that meant, but that’s what he used to say. There might be a prize for anyone who can offer me a credible answer.

I also find it most amusingly ironic that nobody actually knows the origin of the word ‘puzzle’. Oh, and by the way, at this stage, I feel I must take the opportunity of apologising to Ron Smith.

Why do I always seem to know everyone in The Mover’s Mystery Mover competition except the one that I’m supposed to recognise? Sometimes I even know the name of the waitress. Oh, and why do I have this secret yearning for a black and red watch?

I’m now going to move on as I find that I’m running out of question marks. I know that you like to hear my self-deprecating stories, which I can assure you are completely authentic, so here’s one that’s most apposite.

Going some way back, Britannia Group members Malc Haley and Andy Dickerson used to organise an annual charitable ‘challenge’. This particular year we were attempting to complete a (very long and not so flat) section of the North Sea Route through Holland and Belgium on bikes. We were spending our last night in Bruges and somehow, and in spite of ourselves, we ended up in a very noisy disco … is there any other? Towards the end of the evening a very attractive young lady came up to me and asked - nay demanded - if I would like to dance with her. I tried to effect nonchalance and we made our way to the dance floor with my ego fitfully dancing in time to the music. But reality soon took over, and frankly I was rather puzzled (just to remind you of the context of this article) as to why me? Above the sound of the music, I asked her (with echoes of Humphrey Bogart) why, out of all of the people in the room she had chosen me. Although thinking about it this was perhaps the wrong time, especially as we were in the middle of raising our arms in the air to the tune of YMCA.

‘Well’ she loudly replied ‘I am getting married tomorrow and this is my hen night. In Belgium we have a tradition that on her hen night the future bride has to dance with the oldest man in the room’. Collapse of stout party!

So really our life is one long series of puzzles; some of them you work out and some you never do. But don’t worry, some puzzles are there to test us and make life more interesting. It’s a bit like a jigsaw that is never finally completed, we are always looking for another piece to complete the picture - and whilst we are on the subject - why is it that when a jigsaw puzzle has a piece that is missing, it is always the very last piece?

From a business point of view, there are many puzzles which we encounter. The difference between success and failure is a very fine line and whilst failure is often a hard result to evaluate, success is abundantly apparent by its presence. Similarly, it’s often a puzzle as to why the employee that you’ve helped most of all will always be the first one to let you down. Perhaps it’s just more noticeable and maybe the same process applies to your customers/clients as well. Perhaps on a bad day the biggest puzzle is why the heck we got involved in this business in the first place.

Given the choice I probably wouldn’t do anything differently if I had to live my life again. Every little thing that happens to you, good or bad, becomes a little piece of the puzzle of who you become. Every successful person you read about – Warren Buffett, Richard Branson – all seem to have the same opinion. ‘Do what you love.’ I know I did, but even so there are still lots of pieces missing.

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